Audrey Ushenko at Denise Bibro - New York - "Among My Souvenirs"
Art in America, March, 2003;
by Gerrit Henry
In "Among My Souvenirs," Audrey Ushenko gives us a new form of salon painting that is both magnificent and discreet. The title is, of course, a witty play on a lachrymose old pop tune; Ushenko is that rara avis in contemporary art, a big-hearted romantic satirist, with Joe Shannon really the only other peer to come to mind. Among My Souvenirs (48 by 36 inches) portrays the artist's lawyer husband slumped on a couch in a brilliantly sunlit room amid endless skeins of vines hanging from the ceiling and sides. No more inspiriting "jungle" greenery has been seen since the day of Henri Rousseau's tropical overgrowth.
As she proves handily in "Among My Souvenirs," the artist is a master chronicler of realities small and large; her still lifes are less complex. The Guardians features cat figures in various materials, an enormous emerald ring, bottles and mugs, real cats and a swirling peacock feather, plus fall foliage, houses and a soggy sky. While the various objets may resemble purchases made at a garage sale, there is a distinct mystery to all this: those cats, especially, seem to lord it over our psyches.
One of Ushenko's favorite landscape approaches is the rooftop site. At 24 by 36 inches, "Windy Autumn" shows cream railings and blue gables of her house in Fort Wayne, Ind.; we see the car parked in the driveway, and above it green-orange-and-red-tinged trees and a preternaturally blue sky. The painting has a vivacity to it--a sense of life lived, even celebrated, despite being surrounded by handsome suburban blight.
Ushenko has become more and more proficient at painting the figure. In Natural Habitat presents a clustering of men, women and children on the second floor of the a university bookstore. One young man leans on a balustrade observing the snowy outdoors; a woman nearby crouches to look at a reproduction of an antique head, beautiful and, no doubt, pricey. Consumerism has overtaken the groves of academe, and Ushenko relishes the moment even as she lampoons it.
Perhaps the most achieved piece in the show is Stormy Night. Gathered together on wicker furniture are two women and a man, posing a bit as they react to the stormy weather conditions outside with a bit of stiff-necked hauteur.
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